Everton transfer focus - Naismith announces arrival with friendly hat-trick
He scored. They rioted. The most good-natured pitch invasion you ever did see greeted Tony Hibbert’s first ever Everton goal. That the strike came in a friendly - Hibbert’s testimonial, no less - matted not one bit. But the form of the scorer of the other three goals in the 4-1 win over AEK Athens, Steven Naismith, has tempered suggestions David Moyes needs to further bolster his attacking options ahead of the new Premier League season.
Assuming Nikica Jelavic maintains something even close to his form since February - the Croatia striker has 11 goals in 16 games - the only competition for the centre-forward role is as back-up. But Jelavic cannot be relied upon to shoulder the goal-scoring burden himself - the spectre of injury is one that visits Everton regularly, while every player will endure a spell of poor form at some point. And goals from elsewhere in the team can often be the difference between an edgy draw and a narrow win.
Naismith’s hat-trick then underscores his credentials as a supplement to Jelavic and, if need be, a replacement as well. The Scot’s goals, should they arrive, will be especially welcome. Despite not making his Everton bow until February Jelavic scored double the goals of the next player in the scoring chart, where Victor Anichebe, Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman all trailed in the forward’s wake with five each.
Jelavic was the only player to reach double figures. He was undoubtedly aided by the simultaneous signing of Steven Pienaar, who, despite only returning on loan at the end of the transfer window, claimed the most assists of any Everton player. That the two names trailing the South African were players who also spent truncated spells at Goodison Park - Landon Donovan, who joined in January and left in March, and Royston Drenthe, who was banished from the set-up in April - indicates just how desperate Everton were for creativity before Pienaar’s second coming.
Now both Jelavic and Pienaar will be present for the entire campaign - in theory, at least, providing injury doesn’t get in the way. The pair will be equally important to Everton’s effectiveness in front of goal. But then, so will the other nine players on the pitch and particularly those with an attacking mandate. Naismith may start on the right of midfield or the old Tim Cahill role behind the striker. Regardless, his duty will be the same.
If Jelavic is again in good form and half-a-dozen or so goals arrive from the likes of Anichebe, Fellaini, Osman and set-piece specialist Baines, then Naismith’s contribution would add to a respectable goal tally - the former Rangers player scored 15 goals in his final full season in Scotland and had nine last season before injury struck in October. Pienaar meanwhile chipped in with four last season, which, combined with his seven assists, is another fine amount and represents as many goals as Jelavic netted. And, of course, Moyes can now call on the imminently-prolific Hibbert as well.